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The GriGri has been the go-to belay device for thousands of climbers for many years. In the spring of 2011, some 20 years after the release of the original GriGri, Petzl have make an improved version, creatively named the GriGri 2.
A GriGri is an assisted braking belay device for climbing indoors and outdoors. This means that it aids the user when arresting a fall. What it is not, and never has been, is an auto-locking belay device. Before using this device you must make sure you have suitable experience and knowledge of how to use it safely and effectively.
The fundamental principles of how the GriGri 2 works haven't changed in the new model. It uses a cam to pinch the rope when a sudden load is placed on it, and the load can then be released using a lever to control the descent.
I will in this review use various climbing terminology without fully explaining what this means. I apologise to anyone who find it difficult to read because of this.
The GriGri 2 offers a number of improvements over the original device. Firstly, it's smaller and lighter, weighing in at 185g compared with 225g of the original. As it's smaller it fits more nicely in the hand and gives precious extra space in your bag.
It also accepts a wider range of rope widths. The original GriGri was rated for use with rope diameters of 10-11mm, although many people used skinnier ropes with some success. The latest model has increased this range to 8.9-11mm, which covers the majority of sport climbing ropes. This is probably the most significant improvement for many climbers.
With this release Petzl have included what they call a progressive control descent system, which means you can use the level to control how fast or slowly you lower the climber. The official documentation for the original GriGri stated that you should hold the lever completed open and control the descent using your hold on the rope. This improvement makes lowering climbers easier and safer, especially when the climber is significantly heavier than their belayer.
GriGri vs. standard belay plate
A GriGri 2 is undeniably a more specialised piece of equipment than a normal belay device, and if therefore more limited. It does what it's designed for very well, however.
- Assists in arresting a fall, increasing the safety and therefore climber confidence
- When a climber is resting on a route holding their weight for long periods of time is a breeze, as the GriGri 2 does most of the work for you.
- Good when used as an abseil device for pre-inspecting or cleaning routes
- It's more expensive than a standard belay device, costing around £60.
- It only accepts one rope, making it incompatible with the majority of UK trad climbing where two ropes are used.
- It catches the rope sharply, which can in turn exert more forces on the anchors. This is not so much of an issue for sport climbing, however when falling on trad gear it could be the difference between the piece holding or popping out.
A device is only as safe as the person using it, so before buying and using a GriGri 2 make sure you know how to use it. Always remember it's an assistive breaking device, not an auto breaking device.
When used correctly the GriGri 2 is a very safe device to use. There was a manufacturing fault with early models, however this has been rectified and the high standards you'd expect from Petzl have been maintained.
Personal experience of the GriGri 2
I have used the GriGri 2 for several months, both indoors and outdoors.
I usually climb with my other half, who spends a lot of time sat on the rope. When she's taking a (well earned?) break the locking action of the device makes holding her weight a doddle compared with a traditional belay device, making climbing more pleasurable.
It has also helped my confidence when leading as I am significantly heavier than her, and using a traditional plate she has sometimes struggled to hold a fall. The assistive breaking means there's one less worry in my mind. This doesn't, unfortunately stop my legs turning to jelly the second I get above an anchor, but I can't really blame the belay plate on this.
If the GriGri broke tomorrow (which it won't!) I wouldn't hesitate to go out and buy another one. It's been a very welcome addition to my rack, and I hope I'll get many years of climbing out of it.